Yayoi Kusama's Flower-Filled Installation Has Art Lovers Seeing Red

National Gallery of Victoria
National Gallery of Victoria

"Subtle" would probably be the last word one would use to describe the work of 89-year-old artist Yayoi Kusama. Her larger-than-life installations tend to feature loud colors, funhouse-esque mirrors, and frenzied patterns—and her latest work is no exception.

Her installation, Flower Obsession, was specially commissioned for the Melbourne-based National Gallery of Victoria's Triennial, an art event supported by the government of Victoria, Australia that ran from December through April. Gallery organizers said they counted 1.2 million visitors at the Triennial, making it the most visited exhibition in the gallery's 157-year history.

Many people came just to get a glimpse of Kusama's color-crazed world. As My Modern Met reports, gallery-goers were invited to stick faux daisies onto the walls and surfaces of an otherwise drab space made to look like the inside of an apartment. Eventually, a sea of 550,000 red flowers engulfed everything in sight, from light fixtures to chairs to a toilet. Up until April 15, 2018, only those in attendance got an up-close look at this evolving installation. But new images, released by the National Gallery of Victoria, are giving art lovers around the world the chance to see this amazing piece for themselves.

A portrait of Yayoi Kusama wearing a red wig
Artist Yayoi Kusama
National Gallery of Victoria

A doorway covered in flowers
National Gallery of Victoria

A kitchen covered in flowers
National Gallery of Victoria

A living room covered in flowers
National Gallery of Victoria

A flower-covered toilet
National Gallery of Victoria

Kusama explained her inspiration prior to the show's opening:

"One day, after gazing at a pattern of red flowers on the tablecloth, I looked up to see that the ceiling, the windows, and the columns seemed to be plastered with the same red floral pattern," she said in a statement. "I saw the entire room, my entire body, and the entire universe covered with red flowers, and in that instant, my soul was obliterated."

In the past, Kusama has spoken out about her experience with mental illness and the hallucinations she's had since childhood, many of which have inspired her work. "My nets grew beyond myself and beyond the canvases I was covering with them," she once said. "They began to cover the walls, the ceiling, and finally the whole universe." Kusama has voluntarily lived in a psychiatric facility in Tokyo since 1977.

Flower Obsession isn't the first time Kusama has introduced the concept of "obliterating" a space. For a previous installation, visitors were encouraged to place colorful polka dots on the white walls of a room. To see this installation and others by Kusama, check out the photos below.

A room covered in polka dot stickers
The Obliteration Room (2017)
Alex Wong, Getty Images


Longing for Eternity (2017)
Timothy A. Clary, AFP/Getty Images

An installation using pumpkin shapes and mirrors
Infinity Mirrored Room (2017)
Alex Wong, Getty Images


Infinity Mirrored Room—Filled with the Brilliance of Life (2014)
Karim Sahib, AFP/Getty Images

[h/t My Modern Met]

Wish You Could ‘Shazam’ a Piece of Art? With Magnus, You Can

Manuel-F-O/iStock via Getty Images
Manuel-F-O/iStock via Getty Images

While museum artworks are often accompanied by tidy little placards that tell you the basics—title, artist, year, medium, dimensions, etc.—that’s not always the standard for art galleries and fairs. For people who don’t love tracking down a staff member every time they’d like to know more about a particular work, there’s Magnus, a Shazam-like app that lets you snap a photo of an artwork and will then tell you the title, artist, last price, and more.

The New York Times reports that Magnus has a primarily crowdsourced database of more than 10 million art images. Though the idea of creating Shazam for art seems fairly straightforward, the execution has been relatively complex, partially because of the sheer quantity of art in the world. As founder Magnus Resch explained to The New York Times, “There is a lot more art in the world than there are songs.”

Structural diversity in art adds another challenge to the process: it’s difficult for image recognition technology to register 3D objects like sculptures, however famous they may be. Resch also has to dodge copyright violations; he maintains that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act applies to his app, since the photos are taken and shared by users, but he still has had to remove some content. All things considered, Magnus’s approximate match rate of 70 percent is pretty impressive.

Since the process of buying and selling art often includes negotiation and prices can fluctuate drastically, Magnus gives potential purchasers the background information they need to at least decide whether they’re interested in pursuing a particular piece. Just like browsing around a boutique where prices aren’t included on the items, a lack of transparency can be a deterrent for new customers.

Such was the case for Jelena Cohen, a Colgate-Palmolive brand manager who bought her first photograph with the help of Magnus. “I used to go to these art fairs, and I felt embarrassed or shy, because nothing’s listed,” she told The New York Times. “I loved that the app could scan a piece and give you the exact history of it, when it was last sold, and the price it was sold for. That helped me negotiate.” Through Magnus, you can also keep track of artworks you’ve scanned in your digital collection, search for artworks by artist, and share images to social media.

One thing Magnus can’t do, however, is tell you whether an artwork is authentic or not. The truth is that sometimes even art experts have trouble doing that, as evidenced by the long history of notorious art forgeries.

[h/t The New York Times]

'The Far Side' May Be Making a Comeback Online

tilo/iStock, Getty Images Plus
tilo/iStock, Getty Images Plus

For the first time ever, it’s looking increasingly likely that cartoonist Gary Larson’s "The Far Side" will be available in a medium other than book collections or page-a-day calendars. A (slightly ambiguous) announcement on the official "Far Side" website promises that “a new online era” for the strip is coming soon.

From 1980 to 1995, "The Far Side" presented a wonderfully irreverent universe in which hunters had much to fear from armed and verbose deer, cows possessed a rich internal life, scientific experiments often went awry, and irony became a central conceit. In one of the more famous strips frequently pasted to refrigerator doors, a small child could be seen pushing on a door marked “pull.” Above him was a sign marking the building as a school for the gifted. In another strip, a woman is depicted looking nervously around a forest while cradling a vacuum cleaner. The caption: “The woods were dark and foreboding, and Alice sensed that sinister eyes were watching her every step. Worst of all, she knew that Nature abhorred a vacuum.”

Unlike most of his contemporaries, like Berkeley Breathed ("Bloom County") and Bill Watterson ("Calvin and Hobbes"), Larson has resisted reproduction of his work online. He famously circulated a letter to "Far Side" fan sites asking them to stop posting the single-panel strips, writing that the idea of his work being found on random websites was bothersome. “These cartoons are my ‘children,’ of sorts, and like a parent, I’m concerned about where they go at night without telling me,” he wrote.

Many obliged Larson, though the strip could still be found here and there. That he’s seemingly embracing a new method of distribution is good news for fans, but there’s no concrete evidence the now-retired cartoonist will be following in Breathed’s footsteps and producing new strips. ("Bloom County" returned as a Facebook comic in 2015.) The only indication of Larson’s active involvement is a new piece of art on the site’s landing page depicting some familiar "Far Side" characters being unthawed in a block of ice.

Larson’s comments on a return are few and far between. In 1998, he told The New York Times that going back to a strip was unlikely. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Never say never, but there’s a sense of ‘been there, done that.’” In that same profile, it was noted that 33 million "Far Side" books had been sold.

[h/t A.V. Club]

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